Sheffield Wednesday 4 Wolves 1: Owls get back on track

Kieran Lee in action for the Owls against Wolves (Picture: Steve Ellis)
Kieran Lee in action for the Owls against Wolves (Picture: Steve Ellis)
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A BRACE from Fernando Forestieri in the space of five first-half minutes and a majestic strike from Daniel Pudil helped Sheffield Wednesday end their five-match winless streak in style against porous Wolves.

The Owls did it the hard way after falling behind to a 15th-minute penalty from former loanee Benik Afobe after the recalled Ross Wallace was penalised for a foul on Matt Doherty.

But a more welcome spot-kick decision five minutes later from Forestieri enabled the Owls to restore parity after Lucas Joao was felled in the box.

Forestieri then fired in his eighth goal of the campaign on 25 minutes with Pudil’s second goal of his Hillsborough career helping to settle the issue on 59 minutes as the Owls moved to within a point of the top six to provide the perfect festive fillip for Wednesdayites.

The icing on the cake was provided in stoppage-time by Gary Hooper, with the frontman, in just his second league start for the Owls and first at Hillsborough, plundering his first goal at S6 from close range after being neatly played in by substitute Atdhe Nuhiu.

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal made four changes from the side who flattered to deceive in the midweek loss at MK Dons, with Gary Hooper, Lucas Joao and Forestieri included in an attacking looking line-up.

Norwich loanee Hooper was handed his first league start at Hillsborough, while Sam Hutchinson returned to the side in the heart of defence, replacing the injured Michael Turner (knee).

Alex Lopez (thigh) was another casualty, with Wallace coming into the side, while Atdhe Nuhiu and Modou Sougou reverted to the bench.

Wolves, with confidence brittle on the back of a run of just one victory in seven matches, made two changes with Matt Doherty and Nathan Byrne coming into the side in place of former Barnsley player Scott Golbourne and Dave Edwards.

Ex-Sheffield United midfielder Kevin McDonald shrugged off an ankle problem and was fit enough to be named in the visiting starting line-up.

An open and entertaining half remarkable for some indistinguished defending started off with the visitors on top, aided by some casual play at the back from the Owls, which caused a few palpitations among home fans.

It almost yielded an eighth-minute breakthrough for Wolves, who were the beneficiaries of some slack play by Owls captain Glenn Loovens.

The Dutchman’s sloppy pass in his own half put Wallace in trouble and James Henry seized on the loose ball in an instant, with Keiren Westwood stranded out of his goal - but the winger’s audacious chip was just too high and landed on the roof of the net.

It was a warning that the Owls should have heeded - but palpably didn’t.

More enterprising play from Wolves was rewarded when they were awarded a fifteen-minute spot-kick, with Wallace penalised for an untidy looking challenge on the overlapping Matt Doherty in the box, with the Owls initially unhinged by good play from the lively Jordan Graham.

Former Owls loanee striker Afobe coolly sent Westwood the wrong way from the spot for his tenth goal of the campaign - before celebrating joyously in front of the Kop.

It was punishment for a lacklustre opening from Wednesday, before Wolves’ recent propensity to implode at the back resurfaced.

Joao showed strength and express pace to race clear after a punt forward on twenty minutes, with a combination of another ex-Wednesday loan player in Batth and Ethan Ebanks-Landell hauling down the Portuguese in the box, with Mark Brown showing no hesistation in pointing to the spot again - while electing to keep his yellow cards in his pocket.

Forestieri stepped up to dispatch the penalty past Ikeme, to his right, and five minutes later, the £3m attacker plundered his second.

A Wallace free-kick wasn’t cleared, with Batth again failing to cope with the physicality of Joao, with the Wolves defender only managing to divert the ball invitingly into the path of Forestieri, whose half-volley from ten yards out - which took a slight deflection off Dominic Iorfa - flew past the exposed Ikeme.

At the other end, Wolves went desperately close to leveller not long after in keeping with a watchable half when Graham’s brilliant left-wing cross found Byrne at full-stretch, but he couldn’t keep his header down in front of goal.

The Owls ended the half strongly, with Joao outstripping Batth again after latching onto Bannan’s defence-splitting pass, but Ikeme raced out to save the day and block his effort and divert Forestieri’s follow-up - before the loose ball found Wallace, who curled his effort wide of the gaping goal.

Moments before the interval, Wednesday were presented with another fine chance after Ikeme was penalised for handling a backpass from a panicky Ebanks-Landell.

Kieren Lee teed up Wallace, whose shot was blocked before the follow-up found Joao, who fierce rising shot was touched onto the woodwork by Ikeme.

As with the first period, Wolves made a neat start to proceedings with Afobe just failing to get a touch to a fine cross from Byrne.

Forestieri, scenting a hat-trick, then saw his shot gathered by Ikeme with it left to an unlikely source in Pudil to seal victory with a sublime third goal just before the hour mark.

Bannan’s left-wing centre was only half-cleared, with the ball falling nicely to Pudil, afforded time and space before firing an exquisite left-footed strike into the top corner with twenty yards out.

Bannan soon fired off target from distance before Forestieri was within a whisker of recording his treble after a quick taken throw-in left Ikeme exposed out of goal.

With an open goal to aim at from an admittedly tough angle, Forestieri’s chip sailed just over, with Wolves again all over the place at the back.

Forestieri spurned two chances to complete his hat-trick, while at the other end, a timely clearance on the line from Jack Hunt denied Ebanks-Landell following consternation following Graham’s corner.

Hooper added a late fourth with Wolves all at sea again at the death and almost added another after being played in by Bannan.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Hutchinson, Loovens, Pudil; R Wallace, Bannan, Lee; Joao (Helan 58), Hooper, Forestieri (Nuhiu 83). Substitutes unused: Wildsmith, Semedo, Wiggins, Sougou, McGugan.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; McDonald, Price; Byrne (Holt 63), Henry, Graham; Afobe. Substitutes unused: McCarey, Golbourne, Edwards, J Wallace, Coady, Le Fondre.

Referee: M Brown (East Yorkshire).

Attendance: 19,529.